India is currently home to over 77 million diabetics, a number which is expected to almost double by 2045. The prevalence of diabetes in younger population seems to be rising due to factors like lack of physical activity, unhealthy lifestyle and eating habits and a positive family history. With only one-third of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) patients being diagnosed before the age of 40 years, and almost two-thirds experiencing uncontrolled diabetes, they remain susceptible to a high risk of longer disease duration and chronic complications. With this, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has further added onto the diabetes burden of the country.
On the back of sophisticated technology, health tech start-ups have become game changers in the better treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes during the last several years. In India, where the doctor-to-patient ratio is still about 1:1,700, these start-ups are using telemedicine to bring healthcare to the country’s most distant places. My personal experience with T2DM in my family for over a decade has taught me that rural Bharat needs equitable access to high-quality healthcare. By creating awareness about various modern and affordable healthcare options, health-tech start-ups continue to bring in timely and necessary healthcare services to the patient’s doorstep.
Challenges in managing T2DM
One of the most prominent challenges for healthcare providers, today, is addressing the sustained needs and demands of individuals with chronic illnesses like diabetes. The importance of regular follow-ups and continuous monitoring is of great significance in averting long-term complications. However, India tops charts in poor adherence to treatment of diabetes due to negligence, improper management of health records and limited health literacy among the public. With no proven/available cure, the need for self-management of such diseases becomes crucial. Individuals with diabetes have been shown to make a dramatic progress by participating in their own care – measuring and recording blood glucose, exercising, maintaining a diabetes diet, and regularly taking medication.
Role of Technology in managing T2DM
It requires high levels of health literacy, self-monitoring, and frequent contact with clinicians to manage diabetes efficiently. For years now, clinicians have relied on patients to keep a record of their health, blood glucose measurements and ensure regular visits. This approach has not only failed to account for factors like lifestyle modifications and eating habits, but ensuring proper records has been a tedious task, often leading to incomplete and inaccurate measurements.
The changing lifestyle, rapid urbanization has led to a spurt in diabetes cases across the country. Majority of the T2DM care is focussed on urban India, leaving rural part of the India in doldrums. With the emergence of Telemedicine, access to quality healthcare for rural population is a new ray of hope. The Chunampet Rural Diabetes Prevention Project (CRDPP)is a classic example of delivering quality healthcare to rural India. A modern approach like Telemedicine has started to play a significant role in management of chronic diseases like Diabetes better.
Technological innovations in the health-care segment have offered immense potential to fulfil individual needs in the field of diabetes care. In a world where smartphones provide instant access to information,usage of mobile health (mHealth) technology has witnessed a significant growth. The technology does not only make healthcare more accessible but also places more power in the hands of patients, further accelerating greater efficiency in treatment delivery. Another technological invention that has seen a rise in adoption is FGM (Flash Glucose Monitoring) system – a sensor built into a wearable device – enabling a diabetic patient to track glucose levels at regular intervals.
Further, technologies like EMR that allow clinicians to track patient’s vital information, course of treatment, are also emerging as enablers of high-quality, cost-effective healthcare delivery. EMR is a holistic platformthat allows clinicians to collect and integrate all relevant data points into a single platform, ensuring better treatment decisions that can be personalized for each patient. Comprehensive management by combining knowledge-driven and data-driven models has good potential to help physicians improve the clinical outcomes of patients with T2DM.
The possibility for EMRs in improving health outcomes for patients living with chronic conditions like T2DM is noteworthy. A gap in patient’s health records related to key attributes like vitals, FBS (fasting blood sugar) readings and HBA1C monitoring can hamper recovery and so a clear single macro and longitudinal view of personal health records (PHRs) is essential for a physician to treat a chronic patient.
Future of digital healthcare
The adoption of tech-enabled approach like Telemedicine, mhealth, or EMR has potential to transform the outlook of a patient towards healthcare. Technological advancement has shown that access to healthcare can reach the remotest part of the country.
Launch of Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission has further accelerated the adoption of digital in the healthcare segment. By enabling Digital HealthID for every citizen, doctors will have access to a longitudinal view of patient health records for better treatment and diagnosis. Availability of medical data in real-time will reduce medical errors significantly and help avoid duplicate tests further reducing financial burden.
It is equally important for healthcare to be personalized keeping in mind everyone’s needs. With chronic diseases on the rise, customized care for an individual becomes critical to not only provide effective treatment but also cater to their psychological needs. A high grade of personalization and care is only possible with the help of new age technologies. New age technologies can reduce the gap owing to digital divide and boost access to diabetes care in rural and underserved parts of the country.
By Prashant Parmar, Head Sales (Doctor Growth), HealthPlix Technologies Pvt Ltd
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